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Native Son (1940) - Richard A. Wright
Native Son (1940) - Richard A. Wright [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
First sentence: "Brrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinng! An alarm clock clanged in the dark and silent room..." (more)
Related: African American culture - 1900s literature - American literature
Native Son is a novel published in 1940 and written by Richard Wright. It tells the story of Bigger Thomas, an African-American struggling for acceptance in Chicago of the 1930s. His life, however, is doomed from the outset: after Bigger accidentally kills a white woman, he runs from the police, kills his girlfriend and is then caught and put on trial.
Semi-autobiographical in tone, the story is a powerful statement about the inevitable fate of African-Americans as a result of racial inequality and social injustice. As Bigger's lawyer points out, there is no escape from this destiny for his client or any other black American, since they are the necessary product of the society that raised them.
The book was an immediate best-seller, selling 250,000 hardcover copies in its initial run. The book was also one of the earliest successful attempts to explain the racial divide in America in terms of the social conditions imposed on African-Americans by the dominant white society.
It has been filmed twice ; once in the 1950s and again in the 1980s. Neither version is considered to have been an artistic success, despite Wright's involvement in the earlier version.
Native Son has led James Baldwin to write his famous book with essays Notes of a Native Son (1955). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_Son [Jun 2005]
Fictional character as representative
Another way of reading fictional characters symbolically is to understand each character as a representative of a certain group of people. For example, Bigger Thomas of Native Son by Richard Wright is often seen as representative of young black men in the 1930s, doomed to a life of poverty and exploitation. Dagny Taggart and other characters from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand are seen as representative of American's hard-nosed, hard-working class.
Many practitioners of cultural criticism and feminist criticism focus their analysis of characters on cultural stereotypes. In particular, they consider the ways in which authors rely on and/or work against stereotypes when they create their characters. Such critics, for example, would read Native Son in relation to racist stereotypes of African American men as sexually violent (especially against white women). In reading Bigger Thomas' character, one could ask in what ways Richard Wright relied on these stereotypes to create a violent African-American male character and in what ways he fought against it by making that character the protagonist of the novel rather than an anonymous villain.
Often, readings that focus on stereotypes demand that we focus our attention on seemingly unimportant characters, such as the ubiquitous sambo characters in early cinema. Minor characters, or stock characters, are often the focus of this kind of analysis since they tend to rely more heavily on stereotypes than more central characters. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fictional_character#Character_as_representative [Jun 2005]
see also: 1940 - novel - fiction - character - stereotype
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